Asphalt vs. Blacktop – Understanding the Difference

One of the most common questions that most paving contractors come across is, “what’s the difference between asphalt and blacktop?” Well, these are two words used interchangeably in the U.S—which makes it more confusing. However, you should note that there’s a difference. 

So, what makes these two paving products different?

The difference in the production method 

First, you should understand that both asphalt and blacktop have the same ingredients. However, the methods used to make each product do differ. 

Producing asphalt

Asphalt comprises of two primary ingredients—bitumen and crushed stone. The bitumen is a thick and sticky black material, which is a byproduct of crude oil and is produced during petroleum distillation. It plays an important role in holding together the crushed stone. Bitumen is a common material in asphalt tiles, which are mostly used for roofing shingles. 

Typically, asphalt comes from the thickest part of petroleum once it’s been refined. Then, a cutting agent, like crushed stone is then added to the bitumen to give it the right consistency. When producing asphalt, the mixing happens in a drum, which helps in keeping the material at the right temperature. Moreover, the end product is pliable enough to pour on driveways, pathways, parking lots, and roadways, among other surfaces. 

The minimum temperature for mixing asphalt is 250 degrees. This helps in strengthening the product for it to withstand day to day usage. 

Producing blacktop

As we’ve highlighted earlier, blacktop resembles asphalt. But, the difference lies in the production method. The bitumen and crushed stone are of a different ratio. That’s why you’ll notice that the surface of a blacktop road is a bit more shiny than an asphalt paved road. The main reason behind this is the higher percentage of the crushed stone used in the mixture. 

Besides, blacktop is heated at a higher temperature—300 degrees, 50 degrees higher than asphalt. Therefore, blacktop paved surfaces tend to last longer since they can easily be resealed. 

Usage

This is another important area where asphalt differs from blacktop. Each product has unique strengths and uses. That’s why some jobs will favor asphalt over blacktop and vice versa. 

What are the uses for blacktop?

One thing with blacktop is that it’s commonly used in everyday paving projects. Basically, these are the kind of projects that you’d call paving. This is a major reason why most people consider large paved surfaces to be blacktop. 

The following are some of the common uses for blacktop:

  • Roads
  • Driveways
  • Basketball courts
  • Playgrounds
  • Paved pathways around neighborhoods or in parks
  • Parking lots

Most people prefer blacktop since it’s easier to repair, and it lasts longer. Moreover, the surfaces highlighted above have practically lightweight loads, and this is another factor that makes them last longer. Besides, since blacktop has a malleable substance, it’s much easier to manage.

Blacktop is a better option for these surfaces and is easier to manipulate, bent or to repair. After all, no one wants to replace their driveway or parking lot every few years. Repair works with blacktop are much easier. Moreover, blacktop has better aesthetics compared to asphalt.

What are the uses of asphalt?

According to the sealcoating contractors at ABC Paving, asphalt is popular because of its resilient quality, as well as the ability to withstand hard weather conditions. Besides, asphalt is water-resistant, whereas blacktop is not. 

The following are the common uses for asphalt:

  • Major highways, roadways, and freeways
  • Cable coatings
  • Airport runways
  • Soundproofing
  • Reservoir linings
  • Damp-proofing
  • Pool linings

Most people don’t know that asphalt has more uses, apart from the common paving jobs. When we mention asphalt, you’ll probably think of driveways, roads, and parking lots, among other related surfaces. However, you should understand that asphalt has additional uses. 

Interestingly, asphalt can also be used in projects not related to paving—and this is one of the greatest differences between the two products. You cannot use blacktop for a non-paving project. Asphalt, however, is a bit more versatile, in addition to having extra features, like being resistant to water. This makes it possible to use asphalt in a wide range of projects. 

The water-resistant feature allows asphalt to be used in certain projects like damp-proofing or in-ground pools. Moreover, since the substance is a bit thicker than blacktop, it’s ideal for soundproofing projects. 

Also, asphalt is suitable for roadways and highways with high traffic volume and heavy loads. Airport runways and roads with high-traffic volume that are made out of asphalt are far more durable. These surfaces handle lots of heavy loads, and asphalt can withstand such loads. 

Conclusion

Both asphalt and blacktop are durable, safe, and ideal for different paving jobs. Although both are durable, blacktop is a bit malleable than asphalt, but asphalt is tougher than blacktop. This similarity makes the two products ideal for any paving project, but the differences will assist you in choosing the better option for your paving project. 

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